We invited readers to share some of their favourite festive recipes with us. As part of a series, we publish a few we've received so far:
Bhanu Bachchan sent us four exotic dessert recipes. Here is the first for Orange Cheesecake with Candied Kumquats sourced from her college and with her own innovations added in:
Preparation time: 1 hour
For the candied kumquats:
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 25 medium kumquats (or 9 ounces), thinly sliced crosswise, seeds removed
For the crust:
- 2 cups vanilla wafer cookie crumbs (made From About 9 ounces cookies, finely ground in a processor)
- 1/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
- Unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
- 1 cup fresh orange juice
- 1 cup sugar, divided into 7 tbsps
- 2 tbsps finely grated orange peel
- 4-8 ounces packaged cream cheese (room temperature)
- 1 cup sour cream
- 3 tbsps all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 5 large eggs (room temperature)
- To make candied kumquats, combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Scrape in the seeds from the vanilla bean and add. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.
- Add the kumquats; reduce the heat. Simmer until the kumquat slices are translucent, for about 30-35 minutes.
- Remove from the heat; cool the kumquats in the syrup. Strain the kumquats, reserving the syrup.
- Combine the kumquats and 1/4 cup syrup in a small bowl. Return the remaining syrup to the same saucepan; boil until reduced to 1 1/4 cups, for about 8 minutes.
- Now to make the crust, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan with 2 3/4 inch-high sides. Line the bottom with a parchment paper circle.
- Combine the cookie crumbs and brown sugar in a medium bowl; add the melted butter and stir. Press the crumb mixture evenly onto the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of the springform pan.
- Bake the crust until set and the edges are golden brown, for about 20 minutes. Cool the crust in the pan on a rack. Maintain the oven temperature.
- Wrap 4 layers of heavy-duty foil tightly around the outside of the pan with the crust to make the pan waterproof.
- Finally, to make the filling, combine 1/4 cup sugar, and orange peel in a small saucepan. Rub with your fingers until the sugar is moist and aromatic.
- Add the orange juice, Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat. Simmer until the mixture is reduced to 3/4 cup, for about 10 minutes. Chill until cool.
- Meanwhile, using an electric mixer beat the cream cheese and remaining 3/4 cup sugar in a large bowl until smooth.
- Mix in the sour cream, flour, and salt. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Mix in the cooled orange juice mixture.
- Pour the filling into the crust; place the springform pan in a large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
- Transfer carefully to the oven and bake until softly set, for about 1 hour to1 hour 15 minutes. Turn off the oven.
- Let the cake stand in the oven for another hour. Transfer the spring form pan onto the rack and cool. Cover; chill the cake overnight. Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen and remove from the side of the pan.
- Transfer the cake to a plate. Arrange kumquat slices atop the cake, covering completely.
- Your Cake is ready to be served.
Health quotient: The cheesecake is classic, dense and creamy.
Next is this Pumpkin Dessert preparation that was sourced from the Ashoka Hotel:
Preparation time: 35 minutes
- 15 pounds canned pumpkin
- 2 packets Graham Crackers
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup pecan, coarsely chopped for topping
- 1/2 cup whipped cream
- 2 tbsps powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts
- In a medium mixing bowl, coarsely break the crackers.
- In another bowl, whisk sugar, spices and pumpkin puree until sugar dissolves. With a spatula, gently mix crackers, pumpkin puree and pecan.
- Lightly grease the bottom of an 8x8 inch square dish. Spread the mixture evenly. Let it set in the fridge for a few hours. Mix whipped cream with an electric mixer on high speed for 5 minutes.
- Add powdered sugar and mix until combined. Spread on top of dessert and sprinkle some toasted hazelnut on top.
- Serve cold in small slices.
Health quotient: I have altered the recipe to lessen the fat content and calories and also made some changes which are good for health.
Next, Bhanu tells us how to make white chocolate at home:
Preparation time: 45 minutes
- 400 gms cocoa butter
- 15 gms lecithin
- 350 gms powdered dry milk (yes, this is what the professionals use)
- 350 gms sugar (powdered yourself; the pre-powdered contains cornstarch that makes the chocolate gummy)
- Use your own sugar instead of confectioner's sugar, as confectioner's has added cornstarch. Grind your sugar finely.
- Place the melted cocoa butter in your chocolate making wet grinder* (I recommend the Santha make of grinders). It is very helpful to have your solid ingredients warmed up to at least 120 F.
- Slowly add the 350 gms of sugar and 350 gms of milk powder into the melted cocoa butter while the mixer is running.
- Run the mixer (for chocolate using) until the white chocolate is of the smoothness you desire. I find 8-10 hours is about right. Your tastes may vary.
If you pre-grind your sugar in a small food processor or coffee grinder (about 2 minutes work), you can usually reduce refining time by 2-3 hours or so.
- After it is out of the mixer temper, mold up your chocolate into the shape of your choice.
- Place in a cool, dry place to solidify and then demold, usually about 24 hours later to be safe. This can be done in a refrigerator if you wish.
- White chocolate benefits from the resting like real chocolate, but I have found you need to protect it from heat and light a bit more or it can turn 'off'.
*Note: Wet grinders are very popular tools in the South Indian kitchen, used to make paste out of soaked grains and lentils. At one time, a wet grinder consisted of a large rock with a hole in it, where a cylindrical rock with a wooden handle fit in. The grain and lentil mixture was poured in with water and the cylinder rotated by the handle on the top to grind the food together. The ground paste is used for various food items like idlis, dosas, and vadas.
Health quotient: It is a little difficult to make white chocolate, but it is better to make at your home on your own and specially for your kids. This is a yummy recipe for chocolate for those who avoid bahar ka khana.
And finally, we have this recipe for Chocolate Ricotta Tart with Pine Nuts, which Bhanu says is by Chef Bhatnagar:
Preparation time: 30 minutes
For the crust:
- 250 gms all-purpose flour
- 15 gms cornmeal
- 180 gms pine nuts, toasted
- 50 gms sugar
- 50 gms salt
- 100 gms unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
For the filling:
- 100 gms sugar
- 100 ml water
- 200 gms chocolate (chopped)
- 150 gms ricotta cheese
- 100 gms cream cheese
- 1 large egg
- 3 egg yolks
- 10 gms vanilla extract
- 150 gms toasted pine nuts (to sprinkle over the filling)
- To make the crust, lightly butter an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Process the flour, cornmeal, 3/4 cup of the pine nuts, 1/4 cup sugar, and salt in a food processor, until finely ground.
- Add the butter and pulse just until the dough forms. Press the dough into the tart pan.
- Freeze the crust until it's firm, for about 30 minutes. Or you can wrap it tightly after 30 minutes and freeze for up to a month.
- There's no need to defrost the crust before baking. When you are ready to bake, center the oven rack and preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Put the tart pan on a baking sheet. Line the tart crust with aluminum foil, shiny side well buttered and facing down. Fill the tart shell with pie weights or dried beans.
- Bake the crust for 25 minutes, until set. Very carefully remove the foil and pie weights. Bake the shell until golden, about 15 minutes longer. Cool completely.
- To make the filling, combine 1/2 cup of sugar with 1/2 cup of water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Cool the sugar syrup until it's warm to the touch.
- Melt the chopped chocolate in a microwave or in a double boiler over barely simmering water. Set aside. Pulse the ricotta and cream cheese in a food processor until smooth.
- Whisk the egg, egg yolks and vanilla in a spouted measuring cup. With the processor running, add the egg mixture to the cheese in a thin stream.
- Add the melted chocolate and pulse to combine. Add the sugar syrup in the same manner you added the eggs, process until smooth.
- Pour the filling into the tart shell and bake until the filling is almost set, for about 20 minutes. Scatter 3/4 of the pine nuts on top of the filling and bake for 10 minutes longer.
Cool the tart completely on the rack. It can be kept for up to 3 days in the refrigerator, tightly covered. Bring to room temperature before serving. Slice the tart with a hot, dry knife and enjoy!
Health quotient: The crust is absolutely perfect, crisp and very tender at the same time, with a distinct pine nut flavor. The filling is creamy and chocolatey.